BUDAPEST, Hungary — The governing body of world swimming effectively banned transgender athletes from participating in women’s events on Sunday.
FINA members at the organization’s extraordinary general congress voted 71.5% for her new “gender inclusion policy” that only allows swimmers who have transitioned before the age of 12 to participate in women’s events.
“This isn’t to say that people are encouraged to transition at age 12. It’s what the scientists say, if you transition after the onset of puberty, you have an advantage, which is unfair,” James Pearce, a spokesman for FINA President Husain Al-Musallam told The Associated Press.
“They don’t say everyone should switch at 11, that’s ridiculous. In most countries you can’t switch at that age and hopefully you won’t be encouraged to do so. What they’re saying is it’s not feasible for people who have switched to compete without having an advantage.”
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FINA’s new 24-page policy also includes proposals for a new “open competition” category. FINA said it was in the process of setting up “a new working group that will look over the next six months at the most effective ways to set up this new category.”
Pearce told the AP the open competition would most likely mean more events, but those details are yet to be worked out.
“Nobody knows exactly how this is going to work. And we need to involve a lot of different people, including transgender athletes, to figure out how it would work. So there are no details on how that would work. The open category is something that will be tomorrow are being discussed,” Pearce said.
Members voted after hearing presentations from three specialist groups – an athlete group, a science and medicine group, and a legal and human rights group – who had worked together to shape policy based on recommendations made by the International Olympic Committee were given.
The IOC urged to shift the focus from individual testosterone levels and call for evidence to prove when a performance benefit existed.
FINA said it recognizes “that some individuals and groups may be uncomfortable using medical and scientific terminology related to sex and sex-linked traits (but) some use of sensitive terminology is needed to be precise about the sex characteristics that separate individual competition justify categories.”
In March, Lia Thomas made history in the United States as the first transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship. She won the 500m freestyle.
Other sports have also scrutinized their rules.
On Thursday, the cycling governing body updated eligibility rules for transgender athletes with stricter limits that will force riders to wait longer before competing.
The International Cycling Union (UCI) increased the low testosterone transition period to two years and lowered the maximum accepted level of testosterone.
The previous transition period was 12 months, but the UCI said recent scientific studies show that “the expected adjustments in muscle mass and muscle strength/power” in athletes who have made the transition from male to female take at least two years.